Starting in Europe and stretching through Asia Minor, Turkey has been at the crossroads of civilization for thousands of years. The Tigris and Euphrates flow through the eastern edge of this nation and Istanbul was the capital of several ancient civilizations. The silk road traversed this land and caravans of camels carried spices from the far east. Exploring Turkey's southwestern coast provides an unbelievable opportunity to bask in ample natural wonders and to immerse yourself in reminders of the Ionians, Greeks, Romans, Hittites, Carians, Lycians, Byzantines, Seljuks, Crusaders and Ottoman Empire.
Depending upon the length of your vacation and your interests, we will work with you to design an Azure Odyssey that satisfies your needs. Turkey's southwestern coast is home to some of the finest reconstructed Greek and Roman cities in the world. Blessed with long summer days of endless sunshine, there are enormous opportunities for exploring historical sites, natural wonders and charming Turkish towns and villages. We recommend that you begin in Bodrum, the home of the 'Blue Voyage' and the prettiest resort on the southern Aegean. The nearby Bodrum/Milas airport makes it relatively easy to get here. Before you begin your Azure Odyssey, consider spending a few days exploring inland sites in Anatolia:
Pamukkale -- The cascading white travertine pools on this hillside were formed by calcium deposits from cooling calcium-laden spring water. This area was first visited by the ancient Romans, who founded a cure center around 190 BC. In ancient times, this was an oracle: Wisdom was found in a nearby spring that continues to emit poisonous vapours today. The ruins of Laodicea, one of the Seven Churches of Asia, are nearby .
Aphrodisias -- This city was dedicated to Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love. In the 1st century AD, this was a significant center for religion, arts and literature. Many believe this was home to a sculpture school during Roman times. The nearby mountain range provides an ample supply of marble and magnificent sculptures from Aphrodisias can be found in museums across Turkey and Europe. Other evidence suggests that human settlement began here somewhere between 2800-2200 BC.
Selcuk -- Close to Ephesus, Selcuk is home to the Ephesus Museum. The Basilica of St. John is also here, built by the Emperor Justinian in the 6th century. It's believed that John accompanied the Virgin Mary back to this region and was buried here in 100. Little remains of the Temple of Artemis that was built here, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world..
Ephesus -- This is one of the grandest reconstructed ancient sites in the world. Wander the streets of Ephesus and find yourself transported back in time. The Delphi oracle led Ionian Greeks to this site in the 11th century B.C. Ephesus was the sacred center for the cult of Cybele (Anatolian fertility goddess), who eventually became Artemis (the virgin goddess of the hunt and the moon) and was finally transformed by the Romans into Diana. The Temple of Diana was considered one of the seven wonders of the World. Although it eventually became Christian, this Roman city was where silversmiths drove St. Paul out of town. The city's stadium could hold 70,000 spectators and the theater, which was completed in the 2nd century AD, could hold 25,000. The House of the Virgin Mary is nearby, where St. John took Mary after the crucifixion.
Priene -- The siting of this ancient city is stunning: atop a steep hill, against a sheer rocky mountain face, and overlooking what used to be the ocean but is now the floodplain for the 'meanders' river. This city dates from 350 BC and was where the League of Ionian cities held its Congresses and festivals. Its Temple of Athena is considered the epitome of an Ionian temple.
Miletus -- This city was considered one of the greatest commercial centers of the Greek world. The first settlers were Minoan Greeks from Crete who arrived between 1,400 and 1,200 BC. Considered an intellectual center, Miletus reigned as an important commercial and government center from about 700 BC to 700 AD.
Didyma -- This was the location of the spectacular Temple of Apollo, an oracle that rivaled the one at Delphi. The temple had 124 massive columns -- many can still be seen today. The temple was started in 300 BC and was under construction for 500 years. It was never completed but construction stopped when Christianity became the state religion of the Byzantines.
You could also take relaxing day-trips to beaches and villages scattered along the shores of the Bodrum penninsula: Gumbet, Yalikavak, Gumusluk and Torba are delightful.
Our yachts were built in Bodrum and this is their home. Boat building is an ancient tradition in this city and the original 'blue voyage' began here in the 1930's and 40's. Founded in 1000 BC and representing one of the first Greek colonies in Asia, Bodrum was once know as 'Halicarnassus'. A temple to King Mausolus was built here, considered one of the seven wonders of the ancient world and the basis for the word 'mausoleum'. The city stretches along the shore of two crescent-shaped bays and the Castle of St. Peter sits between them, overlooking the azure waters of the Aegean. One of the great showpieces of late-medieval military architecture, this massive structure is the first thing you see upon arrival in Bodrum. The castle also contains the Museum of Underwater Archaeology with treasures recovered from historic shipwrecks discovered off Turkey's coasts. Turks have been vacationing here for decades and this tiny town is filled with delightful restaurants and shops. Depart from Bodrum and sit back as your Azure Odyssey unfolds.
only have a few days and want strictly to relax, consider spending your
odyssey cruising the azure waters of Gokova Bay. Relatively undeveloped
and bordered by dense pine forests, the bay contains numerous warm, placid
bays. You can start the morning in one cove, move to another delightful
spot for lunch, and then anchor for the evening in yet another bay. This
routine can be sustained for days. If you have more time, your Azure
Odyssey can take you south to the point where the Aegean meets
the Mediterranean and then eastward. Turkey's southwestern Mediterranean
coast remains relatively undeveloped with a succession of small settlements
punctuating the rocky shoreline and occasional beaches. Cleopatra and
Mark Anthony spent years exploring and indulging in the beauty of this
coastline. Here are some sites to choose from for your adventure:
-- This city was founded by the Dorian Greeks in the 7th century BC. Located
on a windswept headland, the city had one harbor on the Aegean and another
on the Mediterranean and was strategically located on shipping routes
between Egypt, Rhodes, Ephesus, the Greek homeland and other cities around
the Mediterranean. Since the winds change as you round the penninsula,
ships were obliged to wait for good winds before continuing their journey.
A temple to Aphrodite was built here, which contained a spectacular 4th
century statue of the goddess.
This city has a natural harbor that was the base from which Suleyman the
Magnificent launched his assault on Rhodes in 1522 and British Admiral Horatio
Nelson set forth to defeat Napolean Bonaparte in 1798. Marmaris is Turkey's
busiest yacht-chartering port.
until you reach the Bay of Fethiye. Visit the tiny village of Gocek,
another place from which you can begin or end your Azure
Odyssey. You can spend relaxing days exploring Fethiye Bay -- there
are 11 islands, numerous coves and many beaches.
The next stop should be Olu Deniz, an azure lagoon rimmed by white sand and pebble beaches. This is a national park, and one can sit on the beach and watch hang gliders launch themselves from the top of nearby mountains peaks. Gemiler Island is nearby, where Lycian tombs from the 2nd century BC can be found in the midst of Byzantine ruins from the 7th to 9th centuries.
Patara -- Continue eastward along a uninhabitated rocky shoreline and eventually you encounter a beautiful white beach that stretches for miles. This is Patara, where St. Nicholas was born. The ruins of this ancient city are now half buried in sand.
-- This fishing village, formerly occupied by Ottoman Greeks, is the
next port. The entire village is built on a steep hillside and trips
to Patara, Xanthos and Letoon can leave from here. Xanthos was
the greatest city of ancient Lycia and several times the city was destroyed
by it's own inhabitats to keep it from falling into the hands of attackers.
Olimpos -- An important Lycian city in the 2nd century BC, the residents of this city worshipped the god of fire. Close to Mt. Olimpos, the residents were able to observe a flickering flame that was observable after dark by sailors far out at sea.
Phaselis -- This romantic spot was founded in the 7th century BC by settlers from Rhodes. The ruins of this city are situated around three small perfect bays.
The final site we recommend is Antalya. It is a very long trip from Bodrum to Antalya and those wishing to journey this far must schedule at least two weeks for this adventure. Antalya's harbor is small, so it's easiest to disembark at Kemer. Nonetheless, Antalya is well worth a visit. As the chief city on Turkey's Mediterranean coast, the city has a historical Roman-Ottoman core and is a good base for visits to Perge, Aspendos, Side, and Termessos. Antalya was founded in the 1st century BC and after it became a Roman city, a monumental gate was built (130 AD) to honor the Emperor Hadrian . The best known landmark is the Grooved Minaret, a monument from the Selcuk period. The Antalya Museum has an incredible collection of treasures from the historic sites that are spread across this ancient land. Turkey's busiest airport on the Mediterranean is here, making it easy to depart for home.
Azure Odysseys would love to work with you to design a trip along Turkey's southwestern coast. The coastline is full of places to explore: To learn about ancient history and to discover a spectacular rugged landscape dominated by cloudless skies and azure seas. You can't help but feel that little has changed here in thousands of years. Pick the sites you want to visit or leave it up to us: We'll design a trip that will stay with you forever.